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The competitive balance in the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference has improved tremendously over the past several seasons. With so many schools on the upswing, deep playoff runs could be in store for several schools in 2012.
That’s a good thing for a league that has struggled to find balance recently with programs that range from Class 4A to Class 2A. Expansion is on the horizon in 2013 so expect the last campaign of this six team free-for-all to be a spirited affair.
Here is a complete overview of the EIAC:
EAST CENTRAL TROJANS
Class 4A, Sectional 15
Head Coach: Tim Behlmer (34-11 @ East Central, four years)
2011 Record: 9-2, 5-0 EIAC
Overview: Everything is in place for East Central to have a magical run. They are returning a great and deep senior class and look to be in the hunt for a conference and a state championship. The Trojans have dominated EIAC play for over a decade and there is no reason to think that their reign is over.
Defense wins championships and East Central is loaded with experience on this side of the ball. The Trojans are led by the 2011 TriStateFootball.com Indiana Defensive Player of the Year Payton Stonefield. He is coming off a sensational junior campaign that saw him in on 119 total tackles, nine tackles for losses, 3.0 sacks and two interceptions as he became the school’s all-time leader in tackling points. Classmate Evan Fette was just as brilliant getting in on 88 total tackles, 14 of those were made behind the line of scrimmage to go along with three picks. Nic Smith, Chance Schuh and Brian Streuwing add great depth to a unit that allowed just 11.3 points and 119 total yards per game in 2011.
The Trojans’ offense should be explosive once again. Running back Tyler Douthit ran for 1,317 yards and 14 touchdowns earning him EIAC Offensive MVP honors as a junior last fall. Craig Bonomoni and Cade Knueven will see expanded roles in the rushing attack. The status of starting quarterback Seth Federle will remain up in the air as deals with an off-season injury. Behlmer is extremely confident in backup up Tommy Schroer running show if it happens to be. Not only are Fette and Stonefield standouts on defense they are big-play touchdown makers on this side of the ball. Both averaged over 18 yards per receptions as Fette led the team with 28 catches for 510 yards and eight scores. Stonefield found the end zone five times on 11 receptions for 201 yards as a tight end. The team is looking for junior Jeff Case to contribute as receiver. All of the good things this team does from the skills positions would not be possible without great line play that starts with one of the Tri-State’s best-kept secrets, lineman, Trevor Meyers. Jon Tumlin and Nick Billman will provide depth alongside Meyers.
SOUTH DEARBORN KNIGHTS
Class 4A, Sectional 15
Head Coach: Eric Lows (20-21@ South Dearborn, four years, 20-21 overall)
2011 Record: 7-3, 3-2
Overview: The Knights fought through injuries and adversity last fall the returning lettermen will have to do it again. Solving the mystery of beating East Central is the only hurdle that head coach Eric Lows has not accomplished as of yet during his tenure.
Guidance will be expected from a defense that has many key players back in the fold. Defensive end Ben May has 8.0 career sacks. He will be joined up front by classmates Dustin Conety and Evan Hurr. Linebacker Brad Bruner had a breakout campaign with 83 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for losses including 2.0 sacks in 2011. Add in teammate AJ Hummel and the Knights look solid at the position. Adam Bailey appears poised for a big year in the secondary.
Winning the war in the trenches on offense is going to be an area of concern with so many new faces on the line. Junior Trey Grubbs will be called upon to show some leadership for this new cast. Running back Jacob Creemer ran for 882 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior. Look for Hummel to give the Creemer a warranted rest during games. Quarterback Josh Faller returns for his second year under center. He threw for 462 yards with six passing and two rushing touchdowns last fall. Bruner could fill the option vacated by Garrett Saunders at tight end.
FRANKLIN COUNTY WILDCATS
Class 4A, Sectional 15
Head Coach: Mark Williamson (16-18 @ Franklin County, three years)
2011 Record: 9-3, 3-2
Overview: Great strides have been made by head coach Mark Williamson as Franklin County has gone 16-8 the past two seasons after being just 2-28 the previous three years. The next challenge in the progress of the Wildcats program is to beat South Dearborn and East Central and win EIAC and Sectional titles. Progress is a wonderful thing and this team becomes pivotal in transitioning and translating what has been built to a new wave of up-and-coming players.
Depth on both sides of the line will play a large part in Franklin County’s success. Seniors Donovan Cecil and Zach Fisk are solid foundation, but much will be asked of group of younger teammates that are still raw at the varsity level. The offense has enough options to help ease growing pains. Quarterback Brett Campbell, receiver Ben Wewe and running back Jesse Laker will be even more productive as seniors.
Getting a push up front will allow a back seven that includes middle linebacker Ken Jones and secondary members Dylan Anderson, Zach Sizemore and Wewe to be difference makers. This team must show they can stop quality teams inside the red zone if they are to get over the hump from good to great. Sizemore will handle return duties on a special teams unit that is solid all the way around. Junior kicker Blake McCoy and classmate and long snapper Layne Harnishfeger showed they were more than capable in handling their roles as sophomores last season.
Class 3A, Sectional 22
Head Coach: Scott Moore (18-19 @ Greensburg, four years)
2011 Record: 6-6, 3-2
Overview: It’s time to turn the corner for Greensburg. They have been playing with .500 for the last three seasons. Now they are in a position to not only surpass league rival, Batesville, for bragging rights but they also have the horses to contend for an EIAC championship in 2012. The program appears to be on the cusp of great things. All that is left is for everyone to go out and execute the plan of attack.
This may just be the biggest team that Greensburg has ever fielded on the lines. Led by a trio of seniors in Austin Diekhoff, Andy Henningsen and Brad Wilson, who all weigh 265 pounds plus, along with Tyler Reiger are back together for a second year as starters. Head coach Scott Moore and his Pirates are going to wear teams out running the football. Junior Andy Meadows takes over full-time at quarterback. He is more of a threat with his legs rather than his arm. Don’t be surprised if you see this team post zero passing yards on more than one occasion in 2012. Derek Chambers will get every chance to be the teams featured back after the graduation of Zach Balusik, one of the most productive and durable backs in school history. If drives stall deep in opponents’ territory kicker Riley Billieu is more than capable of putting points on the board with his foot.
Many of the monstrous linemen will see snaps on both sides of the ball. Coach Moore will need to be leery of his guys wearing down and staying injury free throughout the course of the season. Linebackers Ryan Martin and Kyle Moeller are back together again as starters. The duo should have big years as the Greensburg’s top tacklers. Elliot Green and Chambers sure up a secondary that may see more action than in years past if the Pirates can jump out to early leads this fall.
Class 2A, Sectional 29
Head Coach: Ryan Knigga (5-6 @ Lawrenceburg, one year)
2011 Record: 5-6, 1-4
Overview: The leagues smallest school has big goals in 2012. The Class 2A Tigers have just as much depth as any of the larger schools in the conference and possibly the best home field advantage in the EIAC. Lawrecenburg’s record will be deceiving come the post-season, but make no mistake this is a team that no one wants to face in November.
First and foremost the Tigers must keep teams out of the endzone. They gave up 37.1 points per game last season. An aggressive group of linebackers that includes Calem Lockard, Colin Solomon, Brad Kohlmeier, KC Hedger and Robbie Jackson is going to have to pressure on opponents and force them into turnovers. The Tigers had just 14 takeaways in 2011. Lockard and Kohlmeier led the team in tackles. Lineman Dylan Buckingham made quite the varsity debut with 56 total tackles and 1.5 sacks as a freshman. Morgan Baker led the team with two interceptions. He will be joined in the secondary by Nico Jessie.
The engine that makes the offense go is running back Chad Banschbach, the 2011 TriStateFootball.com Indiana Offensive Player of the Year. Despite playing in just eight games Banschbach ran for 1,094 yards, racked up 1,474 all-purpose yards with 15 total touchdowns as a junior. Hedger filled in more than admirably when Banschbach was down, rushing for 541 yards and four scores. Sophomore Sam Fette takes over at quarterback. Head coach Ryan Knigga expects big things from his rising star. Clearing paths up front are senior center Josh Logsdon and guard Andrew Kort. Kicker Jake Newman is a steady and consistent commodity for this squad.
Class 3A, Sectional 22
Head Coach: Eric Heppner (115-71 @ Batesville, 16 years)
2011 Record: 3-7, 0-5
Overview: The 2011 season was filled with twice as many lows as there were highs for Batesville. The team made a rare finish in the cellar of the EIAC standings as they suffered through their first losing season since 1997. The Bulldogs were overmatched in most games up front, giving up 40 points per game in their seven losses. Head coach Eric Heppner will try to expound on the positives like the 7.3 points that they allowed per contest in their wins. Getting the program back on the winning side of the ledger is a going to be a tall order and this team has many returnees hungry to get that accomplished.
The biggest obstacle in the way of Batesville is their size on both sides of the line. This is the smallest team in the league, but they aren’t without experience. Aaron Stirn, Mitchell Williamson, Zach Hall and Graham Hunter are back. Off-season dedication in the weight room by this quartet will go a long way in Batesville staying competitive.
The back seven on defense will be a strength for the Bulldogs. Linebackers Anthony Gartenman and Matt Linkel are back. The secondary returns veterans Ethan Poettker, Cody Haakinson and Clayton McKinley.
The offense has many holes to be filled at the skill positions. Junior running Back Bo Gowan and Dylan Cook showed moments of being special last fall now they will have to carry on in a larger capacity. Kicker/wide receiver Mike Hoeing and long snapper Cody Reer bring stability to the special teams.
Greg is a co-founder of TSF and is now entering his ninth season as a Featured Analyst for the website. The Xavier University grad also serves as the Content Manager for the website and is widely considered one of the top high school football experts in the region. If you are interested in covering your team, please CONTACT US.